On March 31, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that Robert Owens should be on the Constitution Party’s primary ballot for Attorney General. Owens needed 500 valid signatures. The various counties checked his petitions and sent the results into the Secretary of State, who tallied the results and said he only had 481 valid signatures. Here is the 15-page decision, State ex rel Owens v Brunner, 2010-1374.
The Court found that Franklin County (which contains Columbus) did not follow the Secretary of State’s instructions, and improperly invalidated far too many of Owens’ signatures. Ohio petitions forms, unfortunately, do not include a space for the signer to print his or her name. Many people have illegible cursive signatures. To remedy this, Ohio petition forms ask signers to print their address. Elections officials are supposed to use the address to identify signers whose cursive signatures can’t be read. But Franklin County did not do that.
Ohio elections officials, for at least 20 years, have done a poor job of checking signatures on petitions. Typically, petitions in Ohio need twice as many signatures as the legal requirement, to be declared valid. This decision is of great importance, far beyond just the specific outcome that Robert Owens will now be on the Constitution Party’s primary ballot. The vote was 6-1. The dissenter said that because absentee voting has already started, on ballots that omit Owens, therefore the decision is a mistake. But both the majority and the dissenter agreed that the Ohio legislature should provide for an earlier petition deadline, to give election officials more time to do a good job of checking petitions. Thanks to Robert Owens for this news.